Multan: Hundreds of followers and relatives of Pakistan’s most feared Islamist militant leader attended his burial today, a day after he was gunned down in an assault on a police convoy.
Many among the mourners were members of Malik Ishaq’s militant Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group and chanted anti-government slogans calling for revenge.
The funeral in Ishaq’s hometown of Rahim Yar Khan in central Pakistan was held under tight security, according to police officer Ashfaq Gujjar.
Ishaq’s Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group has links to the Taliban and to al-Qaeda, and allegedly masterminded the killing of scores of minority Shiites across Pakistan.
He was killed with 13 other militants, including his two sons, in yesterday’s assault on the convoy, when he was officially in police custody.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack but Pakistani police have been accused of extrajudicial slayings in the past. Ishaq’s nephew Mohammad Kashif alleged that the attack was a staged shootout, and blamed the authorities for it.
But provincial minister, Shuja Khanzada, described Ishaq as a “symbol of terror” and said he was behind many acts of terrorism in Pakistan but he had been freed by courts in the past due to lack of evidence.
Ishaq was so feared in Pakistan that frightened judges hid their faces from him and even offered him tea and cookies in court.
Arrested in 1997, Ishaq remained in prison for about 14 years but could not be convicted in any of over 200 cases, including the killings of 70 Shiites.
He walked out of prison in 2011 after a behind-the-scene deal to help the government influence other militants to denounce violence. But he repeatedly violated the deal by urging in public for killings of Shiites and helping coordinate several top militant attacks.
He was believed to be in his mid-50s and had operated freely for years in Pakistan as its intelligence services helped nurture extremist groups in the 1980s and 1990s to maintain influence in Afghanistan and counter India.
However, Ishaq proved his usefulness to the army in 2009, when he was flown from jail to negotiate with militants who had stormed part of the military headquarters in Rawalpindi and were holding hostages.
He was one of the three founders of Laskhar-e-Jhangvi in the early 1990s. The group later allied itself with al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The US State Department designated Ishaq as a terrorist in February 2014, ordering any US assets he held frozen.